By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
After a heartbreaking loss Thursday morning, No. 4 seed Florida Gators baseball (42-16) got sweet revenge on the No. 5 seed Arkansas Razorbacks with a 10-0 run-rule win in seven innings Friday night in Hoover, Alabama.
Sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (7.0 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 11 K) was locked in from the get go and received an early six-run cushion from his teammates as the Gators cruised to the semifinals of the 2015 SEC Tournament.
Here are three takeaways from Florida’s big win:
1. Puk-ing great: When Puk can control his fastball like he did Friday night, he is virtually unhittable. The second-year southpaw struck out seven Razorbacks in a row, preventing Arkansas from ever chipping away at Florida’s 7-0 lead. If Puk can continue to pitch like this and show the outing against Auburn last week (3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, WP) was a fluke, the Gators will be seen as one of the most feared teams in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Getting it done in the third: Florida has scored 21 runs the in their last two games with 13 of those coming in the third inning. UF extended its lead from 1-0 to 6-0 with a five-run third on Friday. The scoring came from a truly balanced attack, with Gators batters Nos. 3-9 all recording at least one RBI. Freshman second baseman Dalton Guthrie (2/4, 2 R) and sophomore center fielder Buddy Reed (3/3, R, BB) did their jobs as table setters.
3. So fresh and so clean: Puk and sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore have given Florida relievers some much-needed rest by going deep into the last two games. Despite having used five pitchers in Wednesday night’s game, the Gators will enter Saturday’s game with a relatively fresh bullpen, especially for having played three games in as many days.
Up next: Florida takes on SEC regular-season champion and No. 1 seed LSU in the single-elimination semifinal round Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on the SEC Network. UF will start freshman RHP Alex Faedo (4-1, 3.59 ERA).
Saturday’s winner will advance to the tournament championship game, where the Gators and Tigers last met a year ago with LSU coming out on top 2-0 to claim the title.